Numerous comments on this blog and elsewhere bring up the issue of traffic. We all know what it’s like in the town center during peak hours. The presumptive developers of the Smith property also recognize this and have indicated that their preliminary plans may well include such mitigation efforts as the installation of a traffic light at Main and Wattaquadock, and road widening.
A review of previous traffic studies done for this area, however, brings to light how serious the challenge really is. Even before contemplating the possibility of such a sizable commercial development at that intersection, these studies, the most recent of which was done nearly a decade ago, point to issues so severe that even the addition of a traffic light may do little to help.
Signalizing only the Main/Wattaquadoc intersection without enhancing capacity (i.e. widening the road) “Level of Service is still F in both peak hours.” [F=breakdown and/or gridlock] (MAGIC Study, 2001, p. 12)
“The only way to improve level of service at this location, if traffic volumes stay at current levels, is to add capacity to Main Street, an option that would require encroachment onto the sidewalks and/or lawns of properties there.” (MAGIC Study, 2001, p. 17)
The proposal for a market and a drugstore on this site suggests the potential for high numbers of daily vehicle visits. Sit in the lot of a Roche Brothers or a Whole Foods or a CVS for an hour or two and see for yourself how many cars (and re-stocking deliveries) come and go. These types of stores are typically open 12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week, 360 days a year.
On top of this, layer on the fact that the study cited above is nearly a decade old (i.e. the baseline issues are worse today), and you get a sense for the magnitude of the challenge.
Obviously, all the previous traffic studies done at this location would be made mostly obsolete if this proposal or some version of it moves forward. A new study will need to be done taking into account these new conditions, plus the impact, if any, of the new Public Safety Facility, and that study would have new recommendations. Can’t wait to see it.
To read a short summary of three previous studies of this intersection, click here. Thanks to Deb Kellett of the Public Ways Safety Committee for assembling the summary. All the studies are available at Town Hall and some are on the town website. Contact Jennifer Burney, Town Planner, if interested in reviewing any of the data on file.